Should My Child Be in a Play?
Adrian H. Wood's son, Thomas, snagged the role of a Lost Boy in a youth production of "Peter Pan."
Photo courtesy of Adrian H. Wood
You know it’s getting to be the holiday season when auditions fill your newsfeed. All over North Carolina, organizations have been readying for plays and dramatic performances — and they may have beckoned your child. Should you let him or her do it?
December is crazy enough — and then to throw a play into the mix with practices and official performances, other children to juggle and the expenses involved in making it happen, you may be thinking, “I just don’t know.”
Say yes, yes, yes! Ignore the “Why?” and listen to the “Why not?”
Today, more than ever, our children are infiltrated by technology in every aspect of their lives. At school, after school and while playing with friends — at least at my house — it’s a battle to get them moving, creative and building. I saw some amazing benefits when my oldest son, Thomas, auditioned for and was awarded the role of one of the Lost Boys in a performance of “Peter Pan” put on by College of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City.
Imagination. What a way to propel children to think creatively! My son sat, night after night, among other children and adults watching a fairy tale come to life.
Confidence. There’s nothing quite like putting yourself out there and memorizing lines if you’re an 8-year-old in a room full of people. Moving out of a comfort zone is a skill that will carry your child far in life. Thanks to experiences such as playing Alice Wendleken in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at Salem Academy in Winston-Salem. I can walk into a room, smile and introduce myself to strangers.
Commitment. You can’t just skip a rehearsal because of a soccer game or last-minute weekend invitation. Nope, at audition time you hand over the dates you may not be available and those are considered when roles are determined.
Camaraderie. I sat on the sidelines many evenings and watched my oldest child build relationships with a group of children whom, for the most part, he had never laid eyes on. The other Lost Boy who had a speaking part was actually a girl. Watching them build a relationship by performing together was lovely.
Perseverance. Thomas learned to “grin and bear it” like never before. His costume was itchy and uncomfortable, his shoes rubbed on his heels and his hair was too long — but he was not allowed to cut it. These all served as building blocks in developing perseverance.
Working together. A good play is only as good as all of its parts. Everyone must work together and allow the story to unfold in a way that appears seamless. There is no time, room or place for a “me first” attitude.
Being able to accept criticism. This is a big one — perhaps the biggest. In an education system that places so much emphasis on perfect test scores and behavior, it’s refreshing that the performing arts typically don’t involve set rules. The space is gray and changing, so children do their best, but it may not be exactly right. Thomas isn’t to see that criticism wasn’t a bad thing — it can be helpful.
Family support. This was a really great way to teach my other children that not everyone gets everything the same way all the time. In our family, we take turns. Because Thomas participated in the play, our other children took a break from their extra activities. “Life is fair,” my husband and I say. “You get what you need when you need it.” Since then, we make time to take one child away for a night and the other three don’t badger us about when they get their night. Life doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work that way.
Fun. It’s just fun doing something constructive, tiring and rewarding.
Adrian H. Wood, Ph.D., is a North Carolina writer who lives in Edenton with her husband and four children, the youngest of whom has extra-special needs. Read more of her writing at talesofaneducateddebutante.com.